The Language Nook – Le coin langues

English idiom any old Tom, Dick and Harry and its French equivalent

From “any old Tom, Dick and Harry” to “Pierre, Paul ou Jacques”

by | 16 Feb 2017 | English-French Vocabulary


In English, when you want to talk about anybody or everybody without discrimination, you can use this idiom: any old Tom, Dick and Harry.

They are three old, classic names. The same names are also used individually in more English phrases but if you use the three names in this way, then you are referring to one or more people but no one in particular.

In English, the idiom any old Tom, Dick and Harry is mostly used in sentences that convey some refusal of some sort, to protest against something or show disagreement:

  • I won’t let you speak with any old Tom, Dick and Harry.

Any clearly emphasizes the idea that it is can equally be one person or another and old intensifies this notion further.
In English, first names are very often shortened: Tom for Thomas, Dick for Richard and Harry for Harold are but a few examples of common nicknames.

  • In French, there is an equivalent idiom that also uses three names and that is also used with the same purpose: Pierre, Paul ou Jacques.

Very similar to the English phrase, although it does not specifically apply to situations to show refusal or disagreement, the French expression Pierre, Paul ou Jacques is used to talk about unspecified people generally speaking.

  • Il va au bistro tous les soirs et discute avec Pierre, Paul ou Jacques. (He goes to the bar every night and talks with anybody / any old Tom, Dick or Harry.)

There you are! You now know the French equivalent to the English idiom any old Tom, Dick and Harry. Try and use it next time you have a conversation in French! 🙂

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